An interview with Liam Gallagher can be a stressful thing. Especially if you’ve only booked one night in a hotel. A few hours before my interview I get an anxious phone call telling me it has to be postponed due to Liam being sick. He’ll definitely be better by tomorrow, I’m assured, by a nice man who can surely only be the record company’s experienced and visionary GP.
The diagnosis turns out to be correct. Twenty-four hours later I’m sitting with a fully recovered, shorn-headed and parka-clad Liam Gallagher in a quiet restaurant in his manor of Hampstead, being treated to his tumbling thoughts on the state of the world. (He has faith in people but is troubled by the rise of the hard right; “I’d like to see a member of the Ku Klux Klan up to his neck in water, drowning, then a black person come over in a boat and asks, ‘do you want a hand?’”). Despite his brief brush with debilitating ill-health, a few days off his 45th birthday he looks as lean and sharp as he did 20 years ago, cheekbones still intact, deep blue eyes still flashing with intent.
My life has been far from perfect. But I don’t regret anything to the point that I’m going to pull my hair out about it
He’s fun to talk to, good-natured, funny, unpretentious and thoughtful. He is also, however, a nervy conversationalist, buzzing around different topics like a bluebottle, stopping briefly to drop a fully felt but not wholly constructed thought. It’s not long before one realises that without the anchor phrases ‘you know what I mean’ and ‘without a doubt’, most of his sentences would drift into the ether like dandelion fluff, never to be brought back down to earth.
His efforts at sitting still are similarly afflicted, as he bounces in and out of his chair, perpetually re-fixing his collar, ruffling his hair. He has the antsy demeanour of a speed freak whizzing through endless white lines, except it’s halfway through the morning and nothing edgier than coffee has passed his lips.
We’re meeting to talk about As You Were, his first solo album. He’s never been mad keen on interviews – which probably explains the itchy feet – but this time round, as it’s his name on the album cover, he has no choice. “It doesn’t feel any different to an Oasis record,” he insists, when I ask him about the shift in focus. “I sing the way I’ve always sung and I still get the same hit. It’s always been about me anyway, you know what I mean? So nothing’s changed.”
Certainly As You Were is not a radical break from Liam’s musical past. It sticks to the Beatles-influenced harmonic rock formula he’s been unflinchingly loyal to since he and school friend Guigsy formed Oasis 26 years ago. Despite his defiant, bold-as-brass persona however, it’s not all a cock-of-the-walk strut. There’s a melancholy in tracks like For What It’s Worth, Universal Gleam and Paper Crown, and lyrically, moments of reflection, sorrow and remorse.
While it’s hard not to hear the pleas in Come Back to Me (‘We can get back to how we were / Give.. up all the hate’) as yet another olive branch to a so-far unmoved Noel, the contrition in For What It’s Worth – ‘I’m sorry for the hurt / You know I’d give you blood if it’d be enough’ – seems more likely to be for ex-wife Nicole Appleton, with whom he split suddenly in 2013 after the exposure of an affair with American journalist Liza Ghorbani.
He’s unlikely to ever satisfy showbiz curiosity about such things. All he’ll confirm is that his kids have been told ‘everything’; “they’ve been sat down, face-to-face and had everything explained. They know how I feel, and they’ve taken it onboard like grown-ups. And they say, don’t worry about it dad, shit happens.”
But does he admit that he’s making some personal confessions in his new songs?
“I definitely dug a bit deeper,” he says after a pensive pause. “It’s good to get things off your chest or else you’d go fucking mad. But I don’t want to give everything away. There are certain things you have to keep to yourself.” Because you might hurt people? “Maybe. My life has been far from perfect. But I don’t regret anything to the point that I’m going to pull my fucking hair out about it.
“I mean, you don’t want to hurt your kids, in and out of different marriages and shit. But that’s life, innit? Everything happens for a reason. I have a few regrets but not too many. There’s a lot of love on the album too.”
In total, more than 92,000 people have sold The Big Issue since 1991 to help themselves work their way out of poverty – more than could fit into Wembley Stadium.
The main thread running through the album though, is one Liam has been tugging on for decades; a celebration of his own integrity in a gallery of false gods. “I can’t bullshit myself, you know what I mean? ‘Cause I have to live with me. Twenty-four seven. I like who I am, without a doubt. I wouldn’t want to become someone else. And I wouldn’t want to be part of [he wrinkles his nose] some celebrity clique. That doesn’t mean anything to me, that sort of thing. I’m not into going to parties with a load of people I don’t know from OK! magazine, swapping numbers, all that shit.
“It’s the same on stage. When I go on there and I sing… I ain’t an entertainer. I don’t jump around or give it, how are you all doing out there, are you having a good time? Blah blah blah. But I hope people see that I’m singing from the depths of my fucking soul. And it’s the real deal. That’s all I can really do.”
Thank goodness then that his voice is intact. There were some concerns when doctors confirmed he had a thyroid problem which might result in a chronic battle with hoarseness. “I want the thyroid that makes you really fucking skinny, and your eyes pop out,” he says. “But I’ve got the one that makes you put on weight. But I think my voice still sounds good, man. When you go out on the road, there’s a bit of wear and tear, and I don’t really look after it the way I should.
“When you do a gig, the whole day is built around looking after your voice. You get up and test it [he makes a sound like a duck gargling, while he waggles his Adam’s apple]. Okay, okay… Then you feel it coming up in your mouth and you think, fucking hell it’s there! Great, we’re on. Then there’s days when you open your mouth and you think, fucking hell, this is going to be horrific. But that’s the thing with a voice, you can’t just plug it in and go.”
No one wants to see bald rock stars, man. If I ever go bald, I’ll be getting a wig
The other crucial element he’s been lucky to keep is his hair. Continuing success for swaggering jaw-jutted Liam would have been quite a challenge with a comb-over. He nods vigorously, and looks briefly appalled. “No one wants to see bald rock stars, man. If I ever go bald, I’ll be getting a wig. Fucking too right, without a doubt. There’s no shame in that. What would you do? I wouldn’t suffer in silence. I’d definitely go for it.”
His own mop-top faces a constant struggle against his low boredom threshold. He has a picture of Keith Richards circa 1968 on his fridge to inspire him – “He’s got the Elvis thing going [he smoothes imaginary sideburns] and it’s really long down here [he strokes his neck]. That’s the perfect haircut. And I had it a couple of months ago. But last week I just thought, I’m a bit fucking bored here, I’ll go to the barbers. And I asked him, do you have any clippers? He went yeah, so I said, just take it off.
“Then I went to the pub and met some Irish geezers, then I went home. By the time I do the UK tour I might have a fucking perm. A Marc Bolan vibe. Who knows man, that’s the beauty of life.”
When he’s off the road he seems to spend most of his time at home with his ‘missus’ (partner and manager Debbie Gwyther) or dandering around Hampstead, nipping in to his local. He says he still enjoys the odd party but doesn’t want to embarrass his kids so he’s learned when to tell himself ‘Get to bed.’ The media version of mad angry Liam is way out of touch he says: “I’m a chilled motherfucker these days. I certainly don’t go round beating up old people and tripping them up or gobbing on windows. I’ve got a heart of gold.”
His public presence remains high however, mainly through the steady stream of eye-catching tweets he issues. The hippie-esque love darts to fans are punctuated with opaque threats and the odd music review clearly directed at his estranged sibling (‘Psychedelic music by a beige drip is like a vegetarian trying to sell you a kebab’ went the latest.) Does he give a lot of thought to his missives to the planet?
It takes more than wheeling out your old mate uri geller and har mar superstar to make a so called out there record snoozer as you were LG
— Liam Gallagher (@liamgallagher) September 24, 2017
“I tweet from the heart man,” he says proudly. “I mean every single one.” Do your kids ever pull you up when you’re on a bit of a rant? “Not really. There might be the odd one when they’ll phone me up and say, ‘dad are you alright?’ And I’ll say, ‘yes, I’ve never felt fucking better. Do you want some as well?’” He stretches out like a cat, satisfied with his sheer bloody Liamness.
Do your kids come to you for fatherly advice?
“Umm, not too much. A little bit. We’ve talked a bit about drugs – one of them smokes a bit of weed. Nothing too heavy but I’m there, man. Our chats are open, about girls and things. And we’ve had that chat about if they’re gay or anything. They know I’ll love them whatever. But they have to learn their own lessons, live their own lives. And they know everything about my past. So I don’t have much of a leg to stand on, do I, telling them they should do this or that.”
I regret Noel’s head got turned and he brought The Sun into our dressing rooms
Family is important to him. He says he doesn’t have many close friends, his circle is his mother – the long-suffering, devoted Peggy – his sons, and his ‘other brother’ Paul. Despite the outward antagonism, his regular references to Noel suggest he’s still the hopeful younger brother waiting to be thrown a bone. A reconciliation doesn’t appear to be on the cards yet though – according to reports Noel still waits until Liam has gone before he’ll visit Peggy at Christmas. “Yeah, it’s a bit sad,” he agrees. “But that’s life ain’t it? I don’t need to feel guilty about anything.”
This is Liam’s stance – oft repeated – regarding all Noel-related business. “I have nothing to apologise for when it comes to Oasis ending. That was not my doing. That was all Noel. I just got dealt those cards so I moved on. Yeah, I miss the band. I miss having the lads about.
“But the only regret I have is that our kid became a dickhead. I regret his head got turned and he brought The Sun into our dressing rooms. Other than that, I don’t regret one bit. People know we meant it and we didn’t kiss arse to get where we got. It’s all been amazing.”
And with that final declaration of satisfaction, he bounces off his chair, politely shakes my hand, and saunters off to meet his missus. Job done.
As You Were is out now
Liam Gallagher’s interview appeared in Big Issue 1276, now available to buy at The Big Issue shop